So today we had some great presentations from market research firms about the US economy, and specifically the housing market. When will it recover? Will it recover? What does the data say?
One in particular (you know who you are) reduced the tale, and their predictions into a mathematical equation - vacant developed lot supply and housing starts. The theory being that the housing market and all its resulting impacts on the economy will not bounce back until the number of closings surpasses the number of starts - thus working off the excess inventory. Perfectly logical, and there is data back as far as 1977 to prove this is true.
But what about the people? Where do their preferences and their hopes and fears factor into this formula? For some, that's the squishy part. And we had good conversation among our team about what each of us think is going on in the consumer's mind today. Because we are all consumers ourselves the tendency sometimes is to interpret the data based upon our own behavior and project that to the market at large. Oh to have that crystal ball.
I love all the data, and the analysis of it. I love trying to determine what it tells us the best action should be.
And at the end of it all, it's my simple mind that takes me back to the most basic questions:
Who is our customer?
What do they want?
How and when do they want to buy it (this one is more complex than it sounds)?
What can we do to give it to them?
Tackling these questions is risky. It means stepping outside of ourselves, and our sometimes long-held beliefs about what matters to customers and why. And getting to that answer takes listening to your customers. Sometimes not an easy task for folks who have done the same thing for a long time and done it quite successfully in many cases.
Is the buyer really different today? Any different than the last major economic hurdle? I believe so, and not just because of pure demographics. The very fact we can have conversations like this, and that millions of others are doing the same thing everywhere has changed things forever.
That changed consumer today has different needs than they did last year.
So how do we find that consumer in among the data?